The snow starts falling just as I’m driving out to The Well – an oasis of wellness which, for travelers, easily justifies spending an extra day in Oslo. At Up Norway we have just designed a beautiful Well Experience for our guests, and I’ve been invited to try out one of their Hamam treatments.
When I arrive I am given a warm welcome by Anette Ose, the Well’s spa manager. I burst out laughing at her conversational opener: ‘What do you reckon, Torunn, shall we do this meeting clothes on or off?’ With my laptop, mobile and camera confiscated, we soon find ourselves sitting comfortably in our robes in The Well's decadent restaurant. Around us are fellow digital detoxers who have found their way to the Nordic region's biggest wellness centre in the busy run-up to Christmas.
Anette knows a lot about spas. She has extensive experience working at some of Norway’s best, including Farris Bad and Thief Spa. She has no doubts about what makes The Well stand out.
Why should a visitor to Oslo spend an extra day in order to visit The Well? I wonder.
‘A lot of developers build a hotel first, then a spa. We built the spa first, and the hotel comes later. That makes a huge difference,’ she emphasises. Talking about the plans for the hotel makes her so enthusiastic that she points out its prospective location as if it already exists.
‘Wellness tourism is one of the fastest growing forms of tourism,’ she continues. ‘People are stressed out and knackered, so what they need most is a digital detox and to just be off the hook for a while. Here they get to relax in luxurious surroundings.’
The Well has racked up 88,000 visits this year, far more than anticipated, and the projections are even higher for next year.
‘One challenge is that by banning mobile use, we also prevent free marketing through social media. People have a hard time finding us and don’t necessarily know what to expect. Many have no frame of reference to compare it with, and even visitors from Hungary and Germany – countries with a strong spa culture – are impressed by what they find here. And we’re getting more and more athletes coming here to recuperate.’
I rarely experience service up to the level of The Well's restaurant. The waiter gives me his recommendations, and reveals his own favourites to be the seafood dishes. He proudly informs me that the new chef, Bjørnar Amdahl, was formerly Norway’s leading seafood expert.
Perhaps the food tastes even better if you’re wrapped in a bathrobe making unbroken eye contact with your dining partner. What is your favourite experience here? I ask Anette.
‘The sauna rituals,’ she replies. ‘They run continuously throughout the day, indoors and outdoors, and vary between dry and steam baths, yoga, floating experiences and tea rituals.’
What about the guests’ own favourites?
‘Anything to do with water. Norwegians love water. They’ll soak until they get wrinkly granddad hands. And they stay much longer than planned. Our initial discomfort around being in a public wellness centre without swimwear has almost disappeared. Tuesday is the only day when you have to wear a bathing costume, and we don’t particularly notice more people coming in on those days.’
The nakedness, or using The Well’s own swimwear (the only type allowed), has both a hygienic and aesthetic function. As we move from the restaurant to the safari lounge and library, I tend to agree with Anette: it is more aesthetically pleasing to view the large pool and sauna without the distraction of brightly coloured swimwear. Nothing disrupts the well planned lighting, the pleasing pale tones of robes and towels, and the natural brown swimwear. We stop outside a heavy, gold-painted, locked door – and I'm handed over to spa therapist Joanna before the door shuts behind me.
The Hamam: A real Turkish delight
Behind the door lies a genuine Hamam, or Turkish bath. This space is so beautiful, it has to be experienced to be believed. Access is reserved for people who have signed up for Hamam treatments. I'm led into a steam room. In the middle is a large circular marble plinth with a warm surface. The domed ceiling is plated with gold.
By the time the actual cleansing ritual is over an hour later, the term ‘have some bubbly’ has taken on a whole new meaning. Hamam is truly a Turkish delight: a luxury grown-up bubble bath. The peak of happiness is reached in the oriental Hamam lounge, where I am served tea and – yes – Turkish delight, while gazing at snow falling on the treetops outside in the blue hour. Norway’s nature, weather and seasons even raises the bar on an indoor Turkish sauna experience.
Need a tip for the next time you bring your friends to Oslo? How about a bathrobe aperitif and lunch in the private safari lounge, chillin' in the members’ library, followed by a group Hamam experience and Aufguss (steam-infusion) ritual. At The Well, there’s no lack of originality. This place dares to be different.
‘Skip the beach,’ Anette says. ‘Take a chance, and come here – all year round. Chill in our outdoor pools, eat superbly, and check out the DJ by the pool – in a well of wellbeing.’
Tempted to try The Well?
Hidden in the forest 20 minutes outside of Oslo, a paradise for adults awaits - The Well. We invite you for an indulgence in the luxury of tranquility, wellness and revitalisation. The special offer for Up Norway guests includes:
For two guests:
- Private pickup and drop off at your desired address within the Oslo city center
- Entry with use of all indoor and outdoor pool and wellness facilities
- 50 minutes treatment of your choice: classic massage or classic facial
- 2-course lunch with a glass of Prosecco, tea & coffee
- Lounge access
Price for two guests: NOK 4300,- (NOK 2150,- per person)